Government Actions Like Sand Thrown in Our...

Government Actions Like Sand Thrown in Our Eyes

By Shaul Arieli, Ha'aretz

Translated from Hebrew by Geneva Initiative staff
Col. (Ret.) Shaul Arieli, one of the Israeli figures behind the Geneva Initiative, discusses the potential burdens Israel will face should it continue building in the West Bank.
"It is necessary to change my views", said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his lauded speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009. Just like in the political sphere, in the social sphere words without actions are meaningless; and when opposite actions are taken, words become like sand thrown into our eyes.
42 Members of Knesset called for Netanyahu to solve the housing crisis by building in the Territories. The construction of a house in Beit Aryeh may be cheaper than in Kfar Saba, but it carries a trail of expenses: highways, since 75% of settlers work in Israel, bypass roads, protective measures for settlements, three times the expenditures on welfare, and more. 
There are those who claim that evacuating 324 thousand settlers would worsen the housing crisis. But in Taba in 2001 and in Annapolis in 2008, Israel proposed a border that would evacuate 70 thousand Israelis, and the number proposed by the Palestinians was no more than double that. Israel is capable of absorbing tens of thousands of families.
Approximately 7000 people left the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze'ev, Neve Ya'akov, Ramot Alon and Ramat Shlomo in 2009. Recent building additions approved by the Minister of the Interior, Eli Yishai, will not stop the continuous drop in Jewish presence in the city in general, and in its Eastern part in particular.
Eli Yishai assumes that Israel will continue to control the West Bank. Netanyahu, slightly more realisticly, assumes the possibility of an agreement in which Israel will annex parts of the West Bank without territorial exchange. But an agreement will only be possible on a territorial zero-sum basis. One where each neighborhood that was or will be built in the West Bank, and will be annexed to Israel, is exchanged with agricultural lands in the towns surrounding Gaza, in the Lakhish area and more. The necessary actions, therefore, are opposite from what is being done now: Israel must prepare for the relocation of 20% of the settlers, stop building in the isolated settlements, and examine building in the settlement blocks against the disadvantage to the towns which will later pay the price with their own land.